Rock Concert as Church? Redemption Through Song? Resolution of Self-Hatred?

I went to see Crowded House last night. Again – this is time number two for me seeing them. The last time was in 2005 in Auckland, shortly after they reformed as Crowded House and after their drummer Paul had committed suicide.

There is something to be said about the appeal of a concert. A bunch of people, hopefully enjoying these weird groupings of music, and sometimes singing together. That doesn’t happen too much in our day to day lives, and it is really a shame that it doesn’t.

During one of the songs that Crowded House played, their lighting design had a moment where aqua blue lights flooded the audience – almost like everyone was swimming. And of course that, paired with the music, was gorgeous. Probably as close to a spiritual experience as I’ve had in a long time. But at a concert?

I wonder if churches from a long while ago, when the masses were – well – massive, and the sermons were in another language, if the overall result wasn’t something similar (minus the blue light) to a modern day concert?

So, of course they played all of their hits – even some Split Enz tunes – which is always welcome. I think I was one of the only people there that could recognize what song was about to play based on five notes or less, so it made for a couple of weird looks from the gal and guy sitting next to me.

But back to that question – music/ concert as spiritual outlet? I wonder am I so starved for a somewhat spiritual experience that I’m grafting that on to a band that essentially peaked in the 90’s? But there was something special about this concert, and a lot of other concerts I’ve had the opportunity to see over the years.

Tom Waits, Ani Difranco, Tori Amos, Mike Doughty, Crowded House, even Concrete Blonde, there is a magic there to seeing musicians and performers do their thing live. I think that beauty is difficult to replicate. That group of people, plus the audience, plus the energy – I imagine from a performer’s point of view it is a high like no other; but even from an audience’s point of view, they can be all encompassing, and life altering.

So, I saw Crowded House, for time number two. The energy in that room was so awesome, and positive, and (dare I say for thinking it sounds REALLY bizarro), healing, that it made me want to get anyone that I knew who wasn’t feeling great, put them in that room, flood it with aqua blue lights and let them feel that…comfort? Solace? Peace? I don’t know – contentment? Beats the fuck out of me how to define it. Like trying to write a poem about a avant garde dance number.

I guess I don’t really know what my thesis is. It could be that I wonder if the reason why I don’t go to a ‘church’ for any reason is because it doesn’t at all match that same feeling that I get when I listen to music or go and see musicians play their music live. Or I could be asking the question do we think we are less spiritual because we don’t go to church as often, but we replace “church” with a different way of finding a spiritual path? Or it could be that I’m a complete basket case, in which case there is really no help. At 33, if it ain’t changed now, it probably isn’t going to change.

I also have figured out that, at 33, and looking back to when I was 13, 23… there has been shite that has changed, but not much. I like the same music, I’m interested in the same things – of course now I have a mortgage, so I guess that’s changed, but I’m surprised that there is so much of my core that was there when I was younger that is still preserved. It is like no matter what happens to the outside of me – whether I get fat or thin – there is this strange core that will always have a soft spot for this music, these bands like Crowded House, or Fat Bob’s Band (ie The Cure), and this weirdly unique interpretation of life.

And in that setting of seeing “Crowded House” which was two of the original members, and two newbies, there was an absence there. It was a beautiful concert, but whenever I think of someone who has committed suicide, I become immobilized. Sincerely and completely immobilized. I know what that feeling is like – to be so uninvolved in your own life, and to be so disconnected from your physical being, that there really seems like the day to day physical manifestation of yourself is pointless. I remember daydreaming for days on end, escaping in selfmade memories, and thinking if this is what the rest of my life would be like, I wouldn’t want to really go much further with it. It was painful and overwhelming.

I remember someone saying to me that when someone says they are going to kill themselves, it is the ultimate selfish act – that if the person is such a narcissist that they can’t see their lives intertwined with others, and can’t life for something else, then perhaps they are better off to not be here in a physical form. I also remember watching a program where a rabbi was discussing his interpretation of a Judaic life: that the reason why we are here on the planet, it some strange squishy fleshy skin, was to experience our spirit manifested into a physical form. I’ve heard that reiterated through a few other new age/ spiritual movements too, but the rabbi’s words stuck with me, because for the first time I could see that part of my “duty” was to force myself to be present physically.

I think, to be honest, I have tried to divorce my physicality from my mind – I think that is part of the reason why I’ve also packed on weight. In the process too of doing my walking training, I’ve found that I now crave that intense physical meditation that I can achieve through exercise. It helps me reconnect my floaty meandering brain back into something that is somewhat attached to a physical plane. I knew that I craved this reconnection at times, but I don’t think I had allowed myself to experience it; I think at this juncture though, and my ability to really and truly “care less” about what others think, I can’t put that much interpretation on what others think.

That interpretation of where I’ve been, and who I am, has always been up for debate. I’ve felt in the past that I’ve been judged harshly, but realize that has mostly been from myself.But I do fear one thing – that core belief system that I’ve carried around with me. I wonder if Crowded House’s drummer who committed suicide, if he hadn’t thought about taking his life earlier, and if that had framed his life earlier as well. And I wonder if that is just something that overshadows some people and not others – I know I’ve had my battles, and it is something that I would hope that is out of my experience now, but I really don’t know. We have ups and downs; I think my ups and downs are a bit more pronounced than others. I wonder if he didn’t feel that way for a long long time before he committed the act. Which is where it becomes scary for me, because I’ve gone through near mental breakdowns, depression, social collapse, suicidal thoughts, and at this juncture in my life I feel like I’m actually over a bit of a hump. I feel like I’m starting to build things for the first time in a long long time; I feel like I’m comfortable in my own skin – which includes the comfort to be uncomfortable in my own skin enough to exercise, or to have physical goals. But what scares me is that I feel like that ole “suicide” button is like a switch at the back of my neck, and one day I’ll turn my head too quick, and the button will switch on, and I’ll be bummed out again. I don’t know if that fear is rational, but it is there.

And then I go to a concert like I did last night. It was a beautiful set, the music was wonderful. To feel that peace/ comfort today from that musical experience, I wonder if we are just looking for G-d in the wrong houses of worship? Is G-d perhaps in those physical manifestations of beauty – like a concert – or even in sex – and that is what we need to take from this world? Is our physical presence our burden to bear or our tool to use for the extent of our existence?

I know those feelings all too well – the ones where it is literally not going to happen for you to get out of bed. There are no words to describe that immobilization. And it pains me to see that someone so talented would take their own lives, either through an overt suicide or from self-destruction (drugs/ drinking etc) to assume that their gifts or their path was entirely self-determined, irredeemable, and hopeless.

But I don’t think I’m being overly optimistic or reflective? I think that burden we have to bear of being present on a daily basis is *the* reason for being here. That experience of, for instance, going to a concert or a job or a bar and experiencing interaction, beauty (?), and even spirit in a context with others is not too overwhelming in its description, but can be positively overwhelming in its execution. I count myself lucky almost for being able to see this other side of spirituality, the side that – almost like the opposite of that immobilization from self-loathing – that allows me to see this ramped up positivity and beauty. But the other side of that up, is the down.

Another part of this interpretation, or the background that feeds this post, is that I haven’t been to a concert as such for a while now. The last concert I was at was Modest Mouse, I believe that was three years ago. I did go to see Serj Tankian, for about 4 songs, very near then too – but that guy was a capital D douche; nothing I like better than getting a lecture on mass consumption from someone who tours with three buses. But I stopped going to concerts as a conscious decision. I would spend most of the concert watching the band, being almost mad that I didn’t have the energy/ confidence to be a musician too – and to not see any point of my life or any possibility that I could, at one point, perhaps look into including that in my life. I hated the people there – able to enjoy themselves- so I stopped going to concerts.

So Crowded House. How did the purveyors of the song “Don’t Dream its Over” have me rambling on about G-d, life, physical manifestations and suicide? In short, I have no idea. I do know that it is a damn shame that their drummer wasn’t there to see that beauty, and couldn’t reinterpret his own life through his loved ones eyes in order to get through his narrowness in vision. I also know that in that setting of a concert – 1000 people all mesmerized by a surprisingly unaged Neil Finn and his band, is still something to wonder and marvel at. After the – hundreds? thousands? – of concerts that I’ve seen in my life, it is something that doesn’t get old, and still has the power to move me in ways that surprise me. It isn’t like any of what I’m saying is new, but it is bubbling to the surface lately, and I think helping me to reinterpret a few ideas I’ve held in that ‘core’ of my being. I hope that in this reinterpretation, the idea that I would “self-audit” and take myself out of a physical equation, has been quashed for good. I *hope* it has, but that idea that someone – at 46 – commits suicide when they have a wife, two children, and a successful career as a musician, will always make me wonder. I hope that his soul – where ever it may be – is at peace. I know all too well that discomfort and constant nagging of self-hatred, and I hope that question is finally put to rest in my own mind. I credit a small core of people who have been in my life – for longer and shorter periods – for helping me in the past when I haven’t been able to see beauty for myself and I thank them for allowing me to see things through their eyes. At least enough to get me to a point – hopefully now? – that I can see that beauty for myself. One day at a time, for sure, and I’ve gotten to a point where, in all hopes, I can feel like I’ve come through something. I’m not sure where it will take me, but I hope I’m up for seeing this ride through.

Weather With You —> Crowded House (looks like it was shot at Coromandel, but not sure)


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